Reading emotions is something I always thought I was good at. It seems like common sense but I don’t think it comes easily to some people as it does others. There is such a complicated dynamic when it comes to thinking about others… you may know of their situation but you don’t really care, or you could care but you have other things going on that you don’t have time or that you’re blissfully unaware. There is a pretty renowned personality test that I had to take in college called StrenthsQuest. The whole point of the test is to help you realize your top strengths and focus on developing them so you can succeed in life instead of focusing on weaknesses. I took a StrengthsQuest test twice, once freshman year and once senior year. My #1 strength was consistently empathy. At the time, I completely disagreed because I was the least empathetic person I knew, I didn’t care to put myself in other’s shoes or try to feel so connected that I’m able to share in their pain or happiness. It wasn’t until after college and living in the real world, that I began seeing my empathy as a strength. I felt more connected with my friends, family and even strangers. If I didn’t know a person’s situation specifically I tried make up a story line for why they were feeling what they were feeling, and how transmitted through how they acted. Just like the test said, empathy was my strength. For a while there I loved it because I felt very emotionally intelligent. More recently, I’ve began to view the level of empathy I experience as a weakness. Being super in tune with how others are feeling makes you care about them more. If it’s not reciprocated in a specific way, it makes you feel sad. Admittedly, my expectations are high, I expect people to not only act but think of me the way I think of them.
Anyways, this all brings me to one thing: Reactions…especially in relation to the wedding.
Since the engagement my gauge on reactions has been off. When things happen (good or bad) I try to sense how it’s going to make people feel (good or bad). Generally speaking, I thought the Pakistani community would disapprove, my parents/brothers would be nonchalant, my sister would be so ecstatic and my friends wouldn’t be able to contain themselves. In reality, everyone has been different than I originally thought. People that I didn’t expect to be excited are and those who aren’t have things going on that could be clouding their empathy. A couple months ago my mom said “if you care too much about people, you will hurt yourself”. There are so many times she says things that resonate with me, but this hit home. I realized that I can care about people but I need to loosen up on the expectations. Distancing myself a little and letting go of the reigns has helped to not be as sensitive to reactions as I have been.
If all of this sounds dreary, I promise it’s not. It’s exhausting to feel like you need to be connected all the time, I put this pressure on myself so only I can ease it off. My level of loyalty to my friends hasn’t diminished but the weight I felt to keep up with has.